Radical Islamists who seized northern Mali earlier this year are maintaining their hold through fear and imposing an extremist version of Shariah law, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said on Oct. 10. Among the human rights abuses committed by the Islamists, he cited “very drastic punishments,” the recruitment of child soldiers and forced marriages that are a smokescreen for forced prostitution. “They have tremendous resources to buy loyalty because they are now having kickbacks from narco-traffickers in the region,” Simonovic said at U.N. Headquarters in New York. Mali is a transit corridor for cocaine and other drugs from South America to Europe. Fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in January. The renewed clashes, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d’état in March have led over 250,000 Malians to flee to neighboring countries, with 174,000 Malians internally displaced.